Mercy for Foolishness

More than two years ago, flush with success from my first adventure in real estate investing, I bid on a house that was up for auction in Tennessee. At the time, we thought that Joshua and Kelsie and their family might be staying in Tennessee, and we were eager to help them into their first home.

Truth be told, though, at the actual moment we bid, we knew that they were strongly considering a move to Idaho, so that Joshua could be part of the Greyfriars Hall pastoral training program.

But we went ahead and bid on the property anyway. “What could possibly go wrong?” I assured Kathy as I happily confirmed my bid.

Turns out a LOT can go wrong, starting with the fact that we ‘won’ the bid. The previous owner (who was still living in the house) insisted she had been defrauded in the foreclosure process, and promptly sued every bank that had any involvement. Once she found out I was the new owner, she tried to add me to her lawsuit, too, demanding $4.4 million in damages.

After almost a year, we reluctantly hired a lawyer. After sixteen months of patiently waiting for everything to be resolved and continued refusal on her part to communicate or work with us, we decided to proceed with eviction, eventually gaining access to the house around this time last year.

The house was a disaster. The woman who had been squatting there had been involved in heavy alcohol and drug use, and only one room was remotely habitable. Entire sections of the flooring had caved in, and much of the house had been gutted. Termite and water damage was extensive. Lawyer bills continued to pile up, and (by this time) Joshua and Kelsie had already moved to Idaho.

Some people really like their houses to have floors.

Some people really like their houses to have floors.

I tried dumping the project on my middle son, Daniel, who was living in the area. Strangely, he was less-than-eager to take on a complete from-the-studs remodel of an entire house in his spare time. He did work on the house quite a bit, but it was soon clear that the project was beyond either of our abilities, especially with me living 2000 miles away.

A real estate professional who looked at the house gave me some sobering advice: “If you’re lucky, you might get about half of what you paid for it, because of the value of the land.”

I wasn't sure which was worse, the water damage or the termite damage.

I wasn’t sure which was worse, the water damage or the termite damage.

Fast-forward to January. There was a guy who had been keeping his goats on the land before I bought the house, and we had allowed him to continue that practice. This generosity was well-rewarded when he called to tell me that a man who lived nearby was interested in buying the property. A few quick phone calls and a deal was struck — he agreed to buy the house (and the coveted land) for about $3000 less than my total investment.

Not wanting to defraud the potential buyer (as I felt I had been tricked by the banks) I was very frank and up-front about the condition of the house and the litigious former owner. I made our entire legal record available to his lawyer, and sat back to wait for him to back out. But in the course of time, I got a call from his lawyer who assured me that the buyer valued the land and was eager to close the deal, with his eyes open to the potential risk. I was delighted.

It might seem strange to be so jubilant about losing money, but as a good friend told me, “You’ve gotten much more value than a measly $3K in life experience!” I was so grateful to God to be let off so easy for what had been a rather foolish business mistake. In retrospect, it bordered on crazy to buy a house without seeing the inside condition.

God has been good to us. Last Thursday, the check came and we rushed to deposit it. Now the question remains … what to do with the money? As it turns out, the house next door to Rachel may be coming up for sale. This time, I’ll employ a bit more due diligence, I think.


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Lights of Wonder

I spent part of the afternoon with my youngest grandson. (Did you see how I needed to smugly differentiate BETWEEN my grandsons?) He is seven months today, and is at that delightful stage where each moment is filled with new joy, discovery and wonder. He smiles and laughs most of the time — I like to tell him that he’s probably never met anyone who didn’t love him.

Sometimes I think this is what Jesus meant when he said (in Matthew 18:3):

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

I would imagine it would be a great joy and delight to the Holy Spirit if we approached each experience in life like a 7-month-old (at least, when we weren’t tired, cranky or needing a diaper change).

Kathy and Rachel were off shopping, and so I spirited little Davothy (as I call him) off to my office. As it began to get dark, I turned on the Christmas lights over my window, and we stood at the window and looked at the lights. I let my young grandson grab the string of lights a couple of times, but I set my face like styrofoam (I’m too much a softie to set my face like granite) against putting them in his mouth.

For a long time he and I just stood as he looked at the lights and admired their beauty. I mostly watched his face and experienced his wonder vicariously, which was a considerable joy and marvel to me. How can I be so blessed as to hold my daughter’s son in my arms? How can I love him so much when I’ve only been with him three times, and his life has been so short?

My youngest grandson thinks the world is his plaything.

My youngest grandson thinks the world is his plaything.

These are the sort of good things I’m on the lookout for, this year. God has been so good to me — placed me in a godly family, and then allowed me to build my own generation, and now I am still alive to see my children’s children! When I think of David Timothy’s future I am so hopeful and joyful, it helps me forget (for a little while) what a mess our sin has made of this sad world.

One of the most famous verses about the value of having lots of children can be found in Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

In these times, we are going to war (whether we like it, or not) as soldiers of Christ, in a spiritual battle that is becoming very real to many of us. How delightful to have a quiver full of children and grandchildren to confound the enemies of God in the gate!


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The Best Is Yet To Come

About a week ago I was driving somewhere and heard a song on the radio by Ben Rector: “The Best Is Yet To Come”. As I listened, I resonated to these lines:

It’s been the kind of year I’d be fine if I forgot
But I’ll never forget it as long as I live and that’s saying a lot
The wildest menagerie of unfortunate crazy things and now its all over
So raise up your glass here’s to brand new beginnings
And leave in the past all the things that are ending
‘Cause tomorrow will bring us a new morning sun
My friends I believe that the best is yet to come

Not a particularly deep or spiritual song, but it made me think about the sour way I’ve been looking at events in this country in the past year. As I consider the birth of new grandchildren and the joy of seeing them grow and learn and (with considerable effort on the part of their parents) becoming better little humans and lovers of God, I realize that the unstoppable grace of God continues in His work in many ways. Sometimes He is subtle, and sometimes His arm is there for everyone to see, but as I remember my faith, I can confidently affirm that the best is, indeed, yet to come.

So I plan to restart this online journal in a more hopeful, faith-full way, highlighting the good work that I see God doing in His sovereign will. After all:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

— Hebrews 11:1


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